Blood, sweat, and tears have all been spilt in the battle being fought by anti-Cheney students at Brigham Young University (BYU).
They have had only 3 weeks to:
-Organize protests against Dick Cheney's approaching graduation speech
-Start a petition
-Organize an "alternative graduation" ceremony
-Find speakers for the alternative ceremony
-Find a venue for the alternative ceremony
-Raise the $25,000 to pay for all of it
The April 4th campus protest was met with a barrage of condescending obstacles from BYU's administration. WATCH THE VIDEO CLIP HERE.
The petitioners, after collecting a few thousand signatures were told by BYU, "We don't care about your petition, don't even bother submitting it."
The alternative commencement ceremony was organized off campus in student's houses. Groups of BYU students got together and began a collective grass roots effort to achieve the impossible in and impossible amount of time.
Within 2 weeks, the students had booked Ralph Nader, former Utah candidate for Senate Pete Ashdown, and human rights advocate Jack Healey. Speaking fees would land them a bill of around $15,000.
They searched in every nook and cranny in the city of Provo for a place to hold their alternative commencement and they had the door slammed in their faces. They had been "blacklisted" in Provo. Someone was trying to make it as hard as possible for them to succeed. So, they turned to a venue familiar with free speech issues, Utah Valley State College. This is where Michael Moore spoke in 2004 amid death threats, lawsuits, and bribery attempts. They booked the McKay Events Center for a super price of $7,000.
Not having the money, power, or support from their own university, the students had to get on their laptops and cellphones to publicize and event that would happen in less than 2 weeks at that point. How do we write a press release? How do we get donations? How do we take our final exams and organize a commencement ceremony at the same bloody time?
Eric Bybee, a graduating BYU student dropped $900 of his own money as a down payment for the McKay Events center. Ashley Sanders, another student, spent 2 days in a medical clinic submitting her body for experiments in order to earn a quick $1000.
No one has slept, they've barely taken their final exams, and now they fear that their efforts might be lost. They still need to make $9000 in 4 days and they still need to fill the McKay Events Center, which seats 8,000 people.
I asked one of the students, "Have you thought about asking BYU for the rest of the money?", and they just laughed. But it's not that funny.
When a university has the arrogance to confine student protesters to a taped-off orange square dubbed the "free speech zone", to physically take protest signs away from the students who made them, tell an outraged student who had his sign taken to basically "go fuck himself", to pat the petitioners on the head and pinch their cheeks as if they were children, and to ignore and balk at a growing minority of students who feel disenfranchised by the invitation of a warlord to their campus, they have outed themselves as a fringe example of blatant fascism.
If these students don't make enough money and go into debt up to their eyeballs and if only a hand full of people show up to the McKay Events Center of Thursday, BYU will spin it as "you see what happens when you mess with us?"
Today is Monday, April 23rd.
The countdown has begun.
4 more days until history is made or repeated...
TO HELP THE BYU CHENEY PROTESTERS: CLICK HERE